The Sound Of A Hero Faltering

31 08 2012
Photo of Clint Eastwood and Don Hight from the...

Photo of Clint Eastwood and Don Hight from the television program Rawhide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clint Eastwood has been my hero since the time of Rawhide, back in the old black and white days, long before “Make my Day”  became  synonymous with the toughest kind of cool.  I’ve loved every laconic phrase he’s ever spoken, every sardonic little jibe, every sexy stroll down every  dirty wind-blown   noonday street in every spaghetti western he ever made.  He was the dusty ‘aw shucks’  cowpoke who’s sharp acerbic wit, delivered with a low growl and a  slightly crooked grin, was  as lethal as any bullwhip, the menace foreshadowed only in the slow  tightening of the squint of his eyes or the quick turn of the head to  expel  the cigar  perpetually clenched between his teeth.

The man behind the cowboy  was a man of huge intelligence, full of benign self depreciation who seemed to just go on, as great as always, forever. I admired him immensely.

So when the  Republican Convention’s big back stage lit up last night  with a famous image of the Gunslinger I smiled in anticipation.

Roland on the cover of the comic The Dark Towe...

Roland on the cover of the comic The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born #1. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the still lean, still tan  hero ambled out on stage to the roar of a cheering, mostly surprised crowd  I thought, well – how great is this? The Gunslinger  seemed genuinely pleased by the  crowd’s affection.  After smoothing down his thinning white hair he began strongly enough.  But when he got to the place in his performance where he was  supposed to carry on a one-sided conversation with an invisible  president sitting in an empty folding chair the parody fell apart.

As any comedian will tell you and what the planners of this portion of his appearance, being politicians and not entertainers, did most obviously not know; delivery and timing are every thing in a successful comedic skit.

Time and circumstance  have slowed both this laconic  man’s delivery and his timing. Perhaps  his misplaced trust in the evening’s planners led him into a performance he would not have attempted other wise. Perhaps his ego did.  At any rate the result was calamitous. It appeared to me that he knew right away the skit was in trouble but he soldiered on. After all what else was Dirty Harry to do?

The sound of your hero faltering is a terribly painful thing to hear.

I  turned off the TV,  got up and walked out of the  room.



The Captive

30 08 2012

I’m writing about sounds this week as part of a challenge and thought this episode from my past might  be worth telling as it shows some ways that sounds influence our life, our emotions and our memories.

Port Arthur

Port Arthur (Photo credit: Mathew Knott)

In the late 60’s I moved  myself and my five children, a son and four daughters,    into a beautiful old 1920’s  house along the ship channel in Port Arthur,  Texas while my husband built office buildings in Houston.  He stayed with a brother there  during the work week coming home to us late  Friday then returning on  Sunday.  Through the rest of the week I was a ‘single’ Mom.  Money was tight so several things had been  postponed till later while we got the Port Arthur  household set up and the kids enrolled in school.  A phone  and a TV were  on the ‘postponed’  list but I’d grown up without either so it was not a big  deal.  The library was close  and we had neighbors.

For a family from the middle of Kansas it was like living a great adventure  in a foreign  country.  The  street our house sat on was lined with palm trees,  from our  front porch we could watch the barges and ships navigate the channel, feeling as  well as hearing the melancholy booms coming from  the horns of the passing ships.  The sea wall was within walking distance for a son who loved to fish.  The beach was a short drive away.

On one  side of the house lived  a tree  so overgrown with  entwining wisteria  it’s vines created a green, cool, intensely  fragrant  bower-like  cave. The kids spent many make-believe hours playing inside this enchanted space calling  it “Heaven”.  In the evenings after dusk the  songs of backyard crickets, cicadas  and frogs  blended with those of the ship  horns to create a comforting if not melodious background  to accompany our end of the day routines.

One evening, after we were all upstairs in bed, the kids quietened at least  if not quite asleep and me reading a book,  I heard a different kind of  sound. One I did not like.

Quietly, I put down the book and concentrated on listening very carefully.

Again I heard the familiar but disconcerting sound of wood slipping against wood. I thought back, going over all the steps in my ‘closing down the house’ routine. The doors were all locked – I was certain of that.  We’d had some windows open downstairs letting in a cool breeze.  Surely I’d checked, closed, and locked each window  on the sun porch and the kitchen.  But what about the ones on the back wall of the dining room or the living room? Unquestionably, I knew I had not checked every window downstairs.

Again that sound slithered through the quiet of the house.

Heart pounding I slipped out of bed and put on a house coat.  Remember, we had no phone, it was on the postponed list  and these were pre-911 days.  On silent feet I moved carefully across the hall to my son’s room knowing there was a baseball bat in a corner there.  Shaking him awake gently while telling him to keep quiet,  I whispered to him that I thought I had heard someone opening a window downstairs, I thought there was an intruder.  Retrieving the bat from a corner I told him my  plan, he was to stay close behind me as we moved down the stairs and towards the doors directly beyond the stairs.  When we got to the doors  he was to  run next door and get the neighbor while I stayed at the bottom of the stairs with the bat. You run no matter what happens, I told him, I have the bat and it will be enough till you get back with the neighbor.

Scared, filled with dread we made our way as noiselessly as we could through the dark, down the hall and carefully down the top three steps, me with the bat, my son right behind me when once again that slipping sound wedged itself into us.

“Mom, it that what you heard? It that the noise that scared you?” my son whispered.

“Yes.”  I nodded in the dark.

 “Mom, that’s my frog.”

“What?”  me, not quite  so quietly.

“My frog”  he said again “the one I’ve got in the coffee can  in my closet. When he jumps,  he hits the lid of the coffee can and it moves a little bit across the floor and it  makes that noise. Come on – I’ll show you.”

End of that  story.

The Sound of Noon

29 08 2012

Noon (Painting II)

The sound of noon was the same every single day of the week, Sunday as well as the other work-a-day  six, every single month of every single year I lived in that small town in a slight  valley  not far from the cool brown of Gyp Creek in the middle of wheat fields, in the middle of a state, in the middle of the country in the middle of the ’40’s  and ’50’s.

That sound was as dependable as the cycles of nature, it  never had a sick day, never  took a vacation and it never malfunctioned.

Our Town  Whistle   blew   reliably  each and every  high noon with a shrill and arrogant audacity,  mounted on the tower, powered by an air compressor, sounding like a cross between a steam  organ on steroids and the shriek of a banshee, breaking the working day asunder, signaling  that half the work  was over.   On Adams  St.   teachers  were compelled to lay aside  books and send the  town kids home  and the country kids down to the lunch room,  some for hot meals, some for cold.  Lucky ones got to spend a penny on the candy jars in one of the two grocery stores on Main street.   Elsewhere  a workman laid down his work, picked up his lunch bucket and  headed  for the closest shade. A little further out from town a farmer untied the bandana round his neck and wiped the tyranny of the field from his face and headed on up  towards the house.

On any given  Sunday that sound  reminded the Preacher that a chicken  dinner was also a needful thing.

Every once in a while that jolting sound of noon came crashing, careening through the stillness of  night, tearing dreams apart  and wrenching  us all out of bed and down the stairs in a frantic  attempt to get the furniture up on blocks out of the reach of the  cold dark waters rushing, breakneck,  down on us from Gyp creek.

On those nights  the  sound of noon became our one  thin  shield against calamity.

I get back to that sweet-smelling land sometimes and drench my ears in the sounds along country roads; the rustling sunflowers, the whispering cottonwoods, the sound of a breeze so slight in the fields it almost isn’t there. Later hot and dusty, I wander down  towards the fountain on the square for a drink of cool water.

And once again I hear it.

The sound of noon  remains there still, unmuted and fierce,  the audible  promise of community still loud and clear,  still unchanged,  full of ear rending clarity, clanging out it’s song of  one for all and all for one  to  any body who wants  to listen.

29 08 2012

I’ve committed to Post A Day 2012 and thought this challenge was a good way to start. I’ll be posting on a different sound each day this week starting today and will also be following the Weekly Writing Challenge guides. Could be interesting and may help with my DDS ( Discipline Distraction Syndrome).

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